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Grow Up: Graffiti


From Underground to Mainstream

Graffiti is a medium of expression that has always attracted my attention, but I never really understood it. Mainly because it is a form of expression that was born in the street and other very specific environments. Environments that I have never mixed with. I am a typical middle class Madrileña, without any reason to look farther than my own necessity, nor the whys of certain things that don’t affect me. However, the artist’s curiosity always takes you where the ideas flow.

I was born and raised in the Tetuán neighborhood of Madrid – a blue collar neighborhood where immigrants and Spaniards coexist. But, when I was little, Spain was not as diverse as it is now. I have seen my neighborhood grow in a way that I did not expect. Immigration has had long-term consequences for the economy and society, they have brought LIFE to my country, which little by little has become trapped in tradition with an irrational fear of the unknown.

I have also seen many changes in graffiti: from the typical meaningless squiggles that no one can understand, to murals that cover entire facades or neighborhood storefronts. In my adolescence, I remember that I began to pay attention to these changes; I saw that certain authors began to stand out for their signatures or works in the city. There were three types of graffiti in Madrid: the typical signature where there is no respect among artists and the scribbles pile up on top of one other; the more elaborate works with text and illustrations of different styles, but without any type of message; and finally, the one that I personally consider graffiti, where the idea, the text and the art, transmit a visual message with an emotional impact.

Graffiti Betanzos 03

In the city, public transport is the best way to experience graffiti. One of the routes that I usually take to my dispensary is on the bus line 128. On Avenida de Betanzos, there is a strange 3 way intersection with graffiti in every direction you look.

One summer day around noon time, we saw an artist creating a new graffiti on top of another old one. In front of all passers by, he had cleaned the wall of the old painting and began to create his art. I want to believe that he had permission to be there, but we’ll never know. All I can say is that nobody looked at him twice.

A Little History

I’m not an authority on graffiti, but I think that a little history is always nice. The term Graffiti comes from the the Italian word graffi, which means scratches. The archaeologist Raffaele Garrucci began to use the term Graffiti in the 50s and it soon became popular in the newspapers of New York, setting this word into the minds of Americans. Besides the recent addition of aerosol, we have not invented anything new in graffiti. In the Roman Empire, graffiti was used to convey messages of a satirical or critical nature: to announce that Lucius was here, to protest the government, or to make a declaration of love.

In World War II, ‘KILLROY WAS HERE’ became a symbol for US troops. This image could be seen in bathrooms, passing cars, tanks, boats, and all over the place from Italy, France, and even Germany. We do not realize the influence such a small symbol can have and how much strength and hope it can give. The author(s) is unknown, but that is the least of it, the idea is what prevails.

Graffiti gained strength when it became linked to music. In the mid 50’s, the death of Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker dismayed the US and the pain was manifested in the jazz clubs of New York where the phrase was painted: ‘Bird lives’.

Another jump that brought graffiti to the streets was the appearance of the aerosol spray can. It was the one crucial factor that changed the vision of graffiti completely. The technical speed of aerosol combined with the ingenuity of the American youth, influenced by the music and ideas of that time allowed the graffiti scene to be fully unleashed.

The man first credited with writing his name on a wall with an aerosol can was Cornbread. He started scribbling to impress a girl and ended up becoming famous thanks to the Philadelphia press provoking him. The press challenged him to put his name on the Jackson 5’s private jet, which he achieved. In this moment, graffiti was finding its place among militant groups, in universities, and in the ghettos.

In the 70’s, everything changed with the introduction of subway cars. The graffiti culture has really developed underground. I do not know anything about the neighborhoods of New York, nor the music in its entirety, nor the graffiti artists, but I do know as a Madrileña that the real survivors emerge in the darkness.

The defining moment that really made the graffiti culture famous world wide was when the authorities tried to kill it: cities began to chase graffiti artists with fines and barriers. But of course, as we have learned time and time again, this only made the culture grow. Now the graffiti culture that originated with such humble origins has become a global experience.

Plaza del Poeta Leopoldo de Luis

20 years ago, the Plaza del poeta Leopoldo de Luis was a group of abandoned houses, rubble and gang style graffiti that shadowed Calle Castilla. One day, the city built an underground parking lot with a little park on top in the square. When it was fixed, everything was the typical cold and flat, like everything in the city. But after its rebirth, life began to emerge from the adjoining buildings. People began to use the square as a meeting place for families of all kinds of backgrounds, ethnicities, religions and colors: Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Peru, China, Morocco, and Spain. In August of 2018, walking with my husband, we discovered that the entire square had been freshly painted with graffiti from different authors.

@Eddaviel

@eddaviel | Edison Montero

One of the artists that really stood out to me in the project in Plaza del poeta Leopoldo de Luis was @Eddaviel, the alter ego of Edison Montero. From the Dominican Republic, @Eddaviel is an illustrator and writer who has traveled the world transmitting his ideas and values. I reached out to him with a few questions, to which he replied:

Graffiti Eddaviel España

Mural in Plaza del Poeta Leopoldo de Luis | @eddaviel

Do you consider yourself a professional, or do you use graffiti only for expression?

I dedicate myself to be an artist 24/7, experimenting with literature, acting, sculpture and other arts, although my main base and main passion are the Visual Arts in a general sense, that is: illustration of comics, children’s books, covers for cinema, music and books, storyboard, painting and about that we will touch in this article the ‘muralism, street-art or graffiti,’ which I must emphasize I do not consider myself a graffiti artist in the exact sense of the word, since I come more from the illustration, even though I’m always scratching walls with friends that come from the graffiti school.

Graffiti Eddaviel murals 01

Muralism | @eddaviel

What ideas do you hope to transmit through your graffiti?

My art comes from literature and magic lost in the myths and folk legends of the people, having as a starting point the Kiskeyano people, since I was born here and I have grown up with the influences of the three continents that make us up: America (the ground I step on, land of indigenous people with magical visions), Europe (which brought us Catholicism and all the dual magic that makes it up) and Africa (with all the mystical visions from the motherland), my art seeks to tell stories, transmit all this essence of our ancestral cultures. How has graffiti enriched your life? Let’s say that literature and people have enriched me in visions and learning. Painting murals has been one of the means of expression to share those experiences of life. Yes, the walls are a space to share what we are learning with a wider audience, it is expression.

Graffiti Eddaviel self portrait 03

Self Portrait | @eddaviel

Is there anything else you want to say?

Knowing our past helps us to live a better present and build our future, rooted in the very essence of being that we all are one in our unique origin with multiple faces and visions.

Instagram: @eddaviel Facebook: @eddaviel Webpage: www.eddaviel.com


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@elreydelaruina

When you’re in a routine, the mind always goes to that which distracts us as people. In the end, you think about worries, about work, if you called the dentist, that you do not forget the appointment to renew the ID… And in that bustle of life, sometimes seeing something that takes you out of the routine is a lifesaver. It could be something as simple as the graffiti I saw every day on my way to and from work in a Chinese restaurant. When the days were tough at the restaurant, that hand in the corner of Sr. Angela de la Cruz gave me hope.

Graffiti ElReydelaRuina Madrid 02

Compartir vs. Competir – Share vs. Compete | @reydelaruina

The interesting thing was that I later started to see more works from the same artist, El Rey de la Ruina, in different areas of Madrid, with very simple ideas and motives, but extremely disturbing and precious. I spoke to him on the phone about graffiti:

Do you consider yourself a professional, or do you use graffiti only for expression?

Graffiti is not something that can be lucrative. It is the experience, and I would never call it a profession. Have I made money for design work or painting, sure. But I’ve never been paid for having a graffiti experience.

Graffiti ElReydelaRuina Madrid 03

Genocidio Inmobiliario – Real Estate Genocide | @elreydelaruina

What ideas do you hope to transmit through your graffiti?

The city is like our notebook. When my friends and I get together, certain expressions, or ideas, or even silly notions gain meaning. Whether social or personal, when we find an adequate place, we paint it on the wall. For me, the idea starts to take shape and becomes complete when others interact with it.

How has graffiti enriched your life?

As I said, graffiti is about the experience. It’s an activity with certain risks. It’s fundamental to share common values with your partners, of trust, confidence, and friendship, but also maintain a certain level of competitiveness. It’s all about being out there and enjoying the graffiti.

Graffiti ElReydelaRuina mural 01

Shooting Creativity | @elreydelaruina

Is there anything else you want to say?

If you walk up to a dead body in a field, you don’t say ‘this is a murder.’ You say, ‘there has been a murder and this is a corpse.’ In the same way, you do not walk up to a wall that has been painted and say ‘this is a graffiti.’ You should say, ‘There has been a graffiti here, and this image is the result’ Visit our website to listen to the full audio interview with El Rey and to see more pictures of the result of his graffiti.

Instagram: @reydelaruina


@elreydelaruina



Graffiti ElReydelaRuina Madrid 01

@elreydelaruina



Graffiti ElReydelaRuina Madrid Tetuan

@elreydelaruina



Graffiti ElReydelaRuina Madrid 07

@elreydelaruina



Graffiti ElReydelaRuina Madrid 06

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Graffiti ElReydelaRuina mural 01

@elreydelaruina



Graffiti ElReydelaRuina Madrid 03

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Graffiti ElReydelaRuina Madrid 02

@elreydelaruina

My Graffiti

I have seen all kinds of graffiti in Madrid, but I never thought I could be involved in artistic projects of this type. I always found it very dangerous to want to learn the technique, but I have always been attracted to the designs of these artists: the freedom with which they express themselves, their technical quality, and their emotional depth in conveyance have fascinated me.

Almocita Graffiti

European Bee Eater | Design, Irene Llorente | Graffiti, Sovri

Four years ago, a small village in Almeria in the Alpujarras contacted me about an image of a bee-eater they found on my website irenellorente.com. They were looking for a symbol that represented the “soul” of their village, and apparently, the bee-eater nests in these mountains and is full of color and life. The Festival is called Alma de Almocita and every year the city council organizes an evening of entertainment to celebrate the soul and spirit of the people. There was music, graffiti, food and shows for children, etc.

I was invited to the festival, where I met Sovri, the graffiti artist that would put my image on the wall. The time that Sovri and I were in front of that wall, we had interactions with the children of the town, received praises from the grandparents, and saw the happiness of the people who received this painted wall in their village. It was a magical day in that small town.



Door Before

Door Before | Cannabis Cactus


Door After

Door After | Cannabis Cactus

I’ve only had one chance to do graffiti in my life, and it was the motivation of my brother-in-law, Michael Cassini, and the direction of my husband, Joseph Cassini, that we were able to paint an exterior door in my family’s neighborhood in Madrid. After researching this article, I look back and understand that, in reality, graffiti is not the art that remains on the wall; graffiti is the process that resulted in that art being on the wall. As El Rey de la Ruina explained it, “If you walk up to a dead body in a field, you don’t say ‘this is a murder.’ You say, ‘there has been a murder, and this is a corpse.’”

Graffiti is a couple of (crazy) people who come together and do something in common that they enjoy doing. The extraordinary part is not the artist nor the art. Graffiti is the moment. Something as simple as painting a metal door can give us a greater perspective of what life is: an experience that you share with others that enriches everyone involved.


Graffiti Betanzos 02

Avenida de Betanzos – 40°28’28.4”N 3°42’40.3”W



Avenida de Betanzos – 40°28’28.4”N 3°42’40.3”W



Avenida de Betanzos – 40°28’28.4”N 3°42’40.3”W



Avenida de Betanzos – 40°28’28.4”N 3°42’40.3”W



Plaza del Poeta Leopoldo de Luis – 40°27’11.0”N 3°42’14.9”W



Plaza del Poeta Leopoldo de Luis – 40°27’11.0”N 3°42’14.9”W



Plaza del Poeta Leopoldo de Luis – 40°27’11.0”N 3°42’14.9”W



Plaza del Poeta Leopoldo de Luis – 40°27’11.0”N 3°42’14.9”W



Plaza del Poeta Leopoldo de Luis – 40°27’11.0”N 3°42’14.9”W



Plaza del Poeta Leopoldo de Luis – 40°27’11.0”N 3°42’14.9”W


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